How to choose the perfect room for your home office
Whether it's the corner of the living room or converting an attic, we look at the options
Having thought about what your ideal home office would be like, the next trick is to marry those to the reality. For most of us, this means the choice between squeezing into a corner of the dining room or possibly using a spare bedroom.
Ask anyone who has been working from home for a while and they will, almost without exception, say that separate space is vital. Fitting into a corner of a room may work if you are single. But most partners, and definitely any children, will invade your space constantly if you try to share living space.
Consulting your partner is the key to making it all work. They must be happy to sacrifice the space. Remember that they could be under huge pressure in their own work and may not want to be reminded of the office when they get home. Finding your computer buzzing away in the corner might not be the best way to relax.
Equally if you are to lose the spare room, discuss the implications. Will you have to keep a bed in the room for Auntie Ethel’s annual visit or could you manage with a sofa bed pushed to the back and rolled out on odd occasions?
If you are likely to have regular visitors to your business, working in a corner of the sitting room is not an option. It is not very professional to have to clear away last night’s Chinese takeaway to create a space for them to sit down. You probably won’t want to take them upstairs to a spare bedroom either.
If you anticipate a steady stream of visitors, then you will probably have to consider a completely separate space. This will mean a much higher cost.
Many people convert a garage into an office, or put an office in the space above it. You will need to get quotes from local builders and also discuss the idea with your local planning office.
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Planners generally do not object to offices at home but will have many more concerns if you are expecting to receive regular visitors or employ staff there. One of the biggest concerns is transport. Will visitors be parking their cars outside and blocking parking space for other residents? And if you need permission to build an office space, they will want to make sure you conform to health and safety regulations.
Another option is to have an office at the bottom of the garden. Converting the children’s disused wendy house or the old garden shed is probably not the best idea but there are plenty of wooden “offices” on the market.
Wooden structures do not necessarily need planning permission and can provide the answer to the space issue. But make sure you have adequate, safe heating as wooden huts can be notoriously cold in winter.
Most of us work alone and in many cases the need for staff only comes at a later stage as the business takes off. It might not be best to spend too much at the outset and try to balance your needs with the cost involved.
Giving yourself crippling startup costs could set the whole business back by a couple of years at least and you may find that you really don’t need anything more than a small office in the house.
Trial and error is a fairly good approach as long as you and any partner remain flexible. If it is not working, do not struggle on but think about what you need and try to remedy the situation.
The housing market has been booming throughout the year and it may seem that a house with dedicated office space is way beyond your reach. But for many homeworkers the decision to become self-employed is all part of a major lifestyle change – and this often includes moving home. When that happens, it is worth remembering that when you give all your requirements to estate agents. The list should read, for example, four bedrooms, a garden and, most definitely, one office.
If you are likely to have regular visitors to your business, working in a corner of the sitting room is not an option.